Every year over 10,000 undergraduates and postgraduates complete their research work in Ghana, but very few of these get published. Many young scientists, especially graduates in Ghana, fail to publish their research findings due to limited knowledge or guidelines about how to write and publish their research work. The curriculum of most tertiary institutions do not require students to prepare manuscripts or research articles as part of their final year thesis submission. This leaves students to find out on their own about how to write and publish their research work. Unfortunately, very few students are motivated to do this on completion of their studies.
In this short article, I wish to share briefly the importance of publishing your research work as a graduate and also provide a simple but detailed checklist/guide on how to write and publish your research work.
Publication of scientific research is important because it is the primary channel by which a researcher can share results or study findings with his/her scientific community. Currently many scientists have advocated for the publication of even failed results because it also provides significant knowledge to the scientific community and prevents waste of time and resources on repetition of negative experiments. Publishing your research moves the knowledge frontier or advances knowledge in your community, and also contributes to national and global development. Secondly, it allows you to receive expert feedback on your research through the peer-review system. Publishing your research work also advances your career. Your prospects in getting a higher education job appointment, research grant or scholarship, furthering your education or working in some specific areas (such as in research and development) is highly dependent on your track record in research publication.
The checklist below provides generic guidelines or advise on how to write and publish your research work in an academic journal. The checklist was developed when I undertook a Certificate course on “How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper”, organized by École Polytechnique on Coursera.org. The checklist includes tasks/activities to be completed before, during and after writing your paper. I hope you find the checklist helpful. It is my hope that tertiary institutions in Ghana will consider research publication as an integral part and focus of the research curriculum.
Checklist on how to write and publish a scientific paper:
A. KNOW YOUR ACADEMIC COMMUNITY
(It is important that you know the field or scientific community your research work fits. This will help you select a suitable journal for your paper)
- Identify a journal for your scientific paper (e.g. Forensic Science International journal if your research is in forensic science)
- Know the composition of editors for the journal and their fields or areas of expertise (you will find this information on the journal’s website)
- Study the publication process for the selected journal(s)
- Check the acceptance requirements and time scale for the selected journal
- Identify the type of articles that are most cited in the journal
- Check if the paper you want to write is compatible with the editorial line of the journal
- Check ethical guidelines and requirements of the journal
- Identify the most essential research papers on your topic
- Identify other related and important literature for your paper
- Ensure your paper maintains the standards and ethical requirements of the journal
- The journal may require you to attach a cover letter when submitting your paper, draft a cover letter stating the purpose of your research, why you selected the journal, what you did and your main findings and the contribution of your paper to your community.
B. BEFORE WRITING: DELIMITING YOUR SCIENTIFIC PAPER
- Does your paper contribute to your field?
- Identify the kind of paper you are writing (theoretical, empirical, applied, technical or interdisciplinary). Is it the type of paper the journal publishes?
- Identify the potential research questions
- Note what is known about your topic or what has already been done on your topic.
- Does your paper move the knowledge frontier?
- Identify the specific dimensions of originality of your paper
- Note keywords related to your topic and their relationship
- Search databases for references using the keywords (e.g. google scholar, PubMed)
- Build library of references using Zotero or Endnote or simply create a folder and store all your references.
- Make notes of important readings and note references
- Identify the research gap in your field
- Is it possible to go further with your research in an original way to fill the identified research gap?
- Draft your research design/methodology
- Is your research design coherent with the literature/background you have chosen
- Is your methodology or research design compatible with the research questions?
- Will your research design provide answers to the research questions you have raised?
- Do you enrich the understanding of the literature background with the discussion of your results?
C. WRITING THE PAPER: IMPORTANT THINGS YOU NEED TO CHECK
- Read your selected journal’s guidelines for authors to know the structure of the paper (Generally it includes Title, Abstract, Introduction/Literature, Methodology, Results, Discussion, Conclusion and References)
- Does your title include the most important key concepts of your paper?
- Check the specific rules for the abstract for your journal: word count and structure.
- Check that the abstract addresses the motivation, results, contribution, and implication of your paper
- Does your abstract address the intended readers of your paper?
- Ensure your abstract include what you did, why you did it and what happened when you did it.
- Check that the abstract explains the meaning of your results both in practice and in theory.
- Outline the key benefits of your paper in the abstract and what remains unsolved
- State motivation of your topic in introduction. Why is the research important? Why is there a research gap and why nobody has done it before?
- State your main findings or results that answer the research questions in the introduction
- Do your results contribute to previous literature or on-going research? State in introduction
- State implications of your research in the introduction
- Does your introduction include a clear outline paragraph explaining other sections of the paper?
- Does your literature review demonstrate purpose?
- Note limits of other papers in the literature review section
- Does your methodology address how data was collected?
- Does the methodology include how data analysis was conducted?
- Check that all the results answer the research questions
- Indicate how each result was obtained by linking to the method
- Check the accuracy of all the results obtained
- Differentiate between your own results and that obtained from other sources
- Justify your contributions in your discussion section
- Check that your results are discussed in context of the background literature
- Rewrite the final version of the introduction, conclusion and abstract. (This will be a final check to ensure that your results and discussion are coherent with the other sections of the paper and the results answer the research questions)
- State clearly the most important results and their implications, and contribution of the research in the conclusion
- Ensure your paper fits the selected journal’s guidelines for each section of the paper.
- Read the references/bibliography guidelines for your selected journal
- Check that your references conform to the journal’s guidelines for both internal and external references
D. AFTER THE WRITING: FINAL CHECKS
- Does your paper pass the “contribution test”? Does it contribute to your field?
- Does the problem statement or research question remain the same throughout the paper?
- Is the title coherent with the paper?
- Are the selected keywords adequate?
- Is the content coherent with the research objectives and scope of the target journal?
- Send complete draft of paper to a peer or colleague and supervisor to review and check against your checklist
- Ensure your use of abbreviations is moderate
- Compare your final paper and cover letter to guidelines of the journal; make any necessary corrections
- Check paper for spelling mistakes, typos and improper language
- Ensure there are no long sentences
- Send paper to a peer or colleague and supervisor for proofreading
- Verify titles, figures and tables in the paper to confirm they are accurate
- Identify the corresponding author for your paper
- Maintain effective communication with your co-authors before submission
- Ensure all co-authors are satisfied with the final draft before submission
- Send only one version of the article to one journal at a time
By: Aaron Amankwaa, Editor
©2016 Scientect e-mag | Volume 1 (1): A4